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Five Elements to Build Credibility

Feb 10, 2021

Think back to one of your most successful presentations. Do you remember how you felt after delivering your pitch? Now think about pitching that same product or investment opportunity when the outcome was not as favorable. What was different between the two scenarios?

If you realized your success was dependent on more than pitching a great product, you’re exactly right. A study published in the Venture Capital Journal evaluated the impact of an entrepreneur’s presentation delivery in investor decision making. The study involved 24 angel investors who evaluated entrepreneurs’ presentations against 32 different factors. These factors included 20 non-presentational factors, such as details about the company, product, market and more, along with 12 presentational factors, including the structure of the presentation and the entrepreneur’s style and delivery. Would you be surprised to learn that presentational factors had the most influence on the investors’ decisions?

As this study reveals, there are factors beyond having a great product or a hot market that determine the success of a pitch. Aristotle referred to these factors collectively as Ethos, related to the character of the speaker. In the business world, we call this credibility, which comprises these intangible factors that influence business outcomes. Here are five elements that can help you build credibility for your next presentation.


When making a sales pitch, we understand how important it is to be knowledgeable about your product, company, market landscape and more. However, you cannot just have the knowledge; you must be able to articulate it clearly. Fluency is the combination of the knowledge and how easily that information flows when you speak about it.

To improve fluency, record yourself delivering a practice pitch and listen closely for filler words, repetition and how quickly you can get to the point. If you find yourself struggling to share your knowledge, keep practicing!


In addition to being confident in your message, how you deliver it is equally important. Do you appear calm and in control? While it is normal to feel a little nervous before delivering a presentation, the audience will draw inferences from how confidently you deliver the message.

To practice composure, try deep breathing exercises to help you remain calm and maintain voice control. Before entering the conference room, take several deep breaths, which will help you relax before starting a pitch. If you’re calling into a virtual meeting, new or unfamiliar technology can be a source of stress. Be sure to practice using the technology prior to your virtual pitch.


During your presentation, the audience will assess not only whether they believe your message, but whether you are a reliable source. How well do you know your audience? Do you appear to have their best interests in mind? In structuring your presentation, begin by demonstrating that you understand the needs of your audience and how your product or investment opportunity offers a solution.

It can be difficult to prove your trustworthiness during a brief sales pitch, but you can practice behaviors that we associate with trust such as making eye contact with your audience. For virtual video presentations, look into the camera to establish eye contact with your audience, rather than watching yourself on the screen.


Closely related to trustworthiness, likeability of the presenter is an important factor in how receptive the audience will be to the message. Likeability is a measure of how authentic, open and approachable you are to your audience. We tend to associate likeability with positive body language, expressions and tone of voice, which can all help the audience feel at ease.

During your presentation, pay close attention to your body language. Uncross your arms and sit or stand up straight. Address people by name, nod, and smile to make them feel welcome and comfortable.


The final element of credibility is passion, a measure of your level of commitment and the excitement you demonstrate about your message. In their Nobel Prize winning work, Amos Tversky and Daniel Kahneman revealed the role of emotion in our decision making. They described two systems of thinking: intuition is fast, automatic and emotionally charged, while the rational system is slow, logical and requires conscious effort. Based on the amount of effort required by the rational system of thinking, most of our decisions are intuitive and therefore driven by emotion.

Taking this a step further, research by Forrester Consulting revealed the importance of emotion in driving business decisions. In what is referred to as the think-feel-act paradigm, the research demonstrates that how a customer feels about a brand has a greater impact on business outcomes than what they think about the brand.

As the research shows, emotions drive business decisions. During your presentation, the audience will pick up on your emotions. Are you communicating with enthusiasm about your message? However, be aware of the intersection of passion and trustworthiness. Your audience will be able to spot whether your enthusiasm is authentic. If you’re not passionate about your message, go figure out why rather than faking it.

Credibility is vital to business outcomes. Before your next presentation, consider the importance not only of what you say, but how you deliver your message.

Are you preparing a high-stakes presentation? Let’s tune up your presentation skills and practice how to build credibility for your next pitch. Schedule a one-on-one coaching session with Tommy Re to practice your presentation and receive feedback before the big day.

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